“A lot of people started listening to us after we played with Bruce Springsteen, but you guys have been with us since the beginning. This one is for you,” said Brian Fallon as his band of bruised jukebox Romeos launched into a triumphant set-closing cover of The Who’s landmark Baba O’Riley, a fitting end to a night that was a celebration of the spirit of classic rock and the ferris wheel of young romance.
From the moment The Gaslight Anthem arrived on stage to a fanfare which surely threatened the very foundations of Camden’s KOKO the band ran head-first into a blistering set with Great Expectations, We Came To Dance and Casanova, Baby! The pace was relentless, with the band offering a huge sound which produced little opportunity to catch a breather.
Fans had paid upward of £60 to scalpers for gold dust tickets in the 1500 capacity venue which had sold out barely minutes after going on sale, and both band and audience were going all-out to ensure that value for money was met. Every song was a sing-along affair with not one of the twenty-five songs on the set list feeling like filler. Even new singe 45 – not yet released in the UK – was recited by heart.
With their fourth studio album, Handwritten, set to be released next month, Monday’s gig in London was an opportunity for Gaslight Anthem to showcase the records which brought them to sharing a stage with Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury.
Sink or Swim and The ‘59 Sound featured heavily in the early stages of the set, with songs such as I’da Called You Woody, Joe, Angry Johnny And The Radio, Old Lincoln and Even Cowgirls Get The Blues drawing slightly heartier participation than the other eagerly-met songs. A cover of the Animals classic House of the Rising Sun bookmarked a venture into the more recent release, American Slang, where the title track and She Loves You were enthusiastically sang along with.
Brian Fallon didn’t need to talk between every song to have the crowd in the palm of his hand; he communicates through the passion of his songs, the infectious smile he flashes every so often and the regular use of hand gestures. He struck-up a “we’re in this together” kind of bond with the audience throughout, never more so than when, unshackled by the addition of Ian Perkins on guitar, he disappeared off-stage between songs midway through the set, only to be spotted high up on the balcony above his raucous rock disciples. He threw himself backwards from the architecture, landing safely into a sea of welcoming arms, crowd surfing his way back to the stage.
It was a significant moment in a night which emphasised a common energy between the performer and the audience which is rarely found in today’s music scene. The Gaslight Anthem’s sound is huge, their performance is polished and at times it sounds like – dare I say it – they could be an arena rock band.
For much of their career The Gaslight Anthem have lived in the considerable shadow of their Jersey Godfathers, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. On the evidence offered on Monday night they are finally ready to emerge from that shadow and stand alone as the natural successors to The Boss’s crown.